…and we’re back

Today was the first day of 2011 as far as I’m concerned. I can’t help but feel like every year when I welcome baseball back, I’m really welcoming myself back. Nothing really steps up and takes the game’s place during the offseason. Yeah there’s Christmas. There’s Thanksgiving. There’s the New Year. There’s the Winter Meetings with the rumors and the team-bolstering trades and signings (not really ever true for Indians fans, but in theory). Call me Scrooge, none of it is transcendent enough for me to get to Spring Training each year and say, “Hey, the past few months really flew! Baseball time already?”

And granted, it’s nice the game is back. It’s exciting thinking about the year ahead, planning fantasy league drafts and playing couch manager, speculating on how the Tribe’s lineup will look and fare, and gradually convincing myself that their perceived flaws are superficial or overstated. Two weeks ago I thought maybe we could surprise some people and play at a .500 clip this year. Last week I thought, hey, if the pieces fall into place maybe we can contend. This week I’m thinking we’re a WS team. That is what spring does to the mind. But it is only gratifying for a week or so, then Spring Training games lose their lustre and I become preoccupied with the majesty of Opening Day.

Today’s game was interesting. Through the first four innings, Tribe pitchers pitched a total of 14 pitches, while still striking out a batter and giving up two hits. I’ve watched a lot of baseball and don’t think I’ve ever seen that kind of efficiency. All 14 pitches were strikes. Tomlin worked the first two innings with 8 pitches. Then Joe Smith used three pitches to get through the third. And Pure Rage used three to get through the fourth. 10 groundball outs. A couple double plays.

This can only mean that our pitching staff is going to lead the league in strike-ball ratio this year and will a collective ERA around 3.00. Either that, or it means literally nothing–and is a product of antsy Reds hitters, anxious to slug after a long spring, going after the first pitch, perhaps at Dusty’s prodding; teams tend to have themes to their spring slate. Jordan Bastian has written recently that Acta is encouraging aggressiveness on the basepaths. Forcing the issue. The Reds probably have some aggressiveness-on-first-pitch-strikes type game plan. Even so it was a lesson in efficiency that was interesting to watch.

Miami beat the Marlins 9-8 today. I get it, it’s spring. Playing backups. Metal bats. Blah blah blah. Still, that’s pretty embarrassing. I was surprised there was nothing about it on ESPN or MLB.com throughout the day.

Also, first unofficial homer of the 2011 season for the Tribe: Ezequiel Carrera. If I had to make a list of likely candidates for that honor, Carrera would have been right beneath Pedro Cerrano.